Kohinoor, one of India's long cherished treasures, is back in the limelight with the Modi government deciding to approach the British government to get back the precious jewel. The decision comes barely three months after the government informed the Supreme Court that the diamond was neither stolen nor taken by force by the English, but was gifted.
What is Kohinoor?
Kohinoor is a 105 carat diamond believed to have mined around 800 years ago in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. The jewel belonged to several Indian and Persian rulers before finally going to the possession of Sikh ruler Raja Ranjit Singh in 1813.
Several people believe that the Kohinoor and the Syamantaka, mentioned in a Sanskrit script over 5,000 years ago, are same. Several historians, however, disagree with this. The diamond was named Kohinoor, which means 'Mountain of light' in Persian, after it came in to the hands of Nadar Shah in 1739.
How it reached Britain
The British conquered Punjab in 1849 and confiscated the properties of the Empire as war compensation. The Kohinoor was transferred to the treasury of the British East India Company in Lahore from were it was later taken to Britain and handed to Queen Victoria in 1850. In 1852, the Kohinoor was cut to its current size form its earlier size of over 186 carats. After the Queen's death, the diamond became part of the Crown Jewels.
India made the first request for the diamond soon after independence, followed by another petition in 1953. In 2000, a letter signed by several Indian MPs called for the return of the jewel. However, each time, Britain refuted the requests. "If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty. I am afraid to say, it is going to have to stay put," former British premier David Cameron said during his India visit.
Government's flip-flop in SC
In April 2016, the Union government told the Supreme Court that the Kohinoor was handed over to the East India Company as a gift by Raja Ranjit Singh and that India should not stake claim to the diamond. In response to a top court notice which asked the Centre to make its stand clear on bringing back the jewel, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar cited a 43-year-old law and said the government was not allowed to bring back antiquities taken out of the country before independence.
Pakistan joins the race
A new ownership claim for the prestigious gem came from Pakistan last year after a Lahore court agreed to hear a petition calling for Britain to hand over the jewel to the country. Javed Iqbal Jaffry, a UK-trained lawyer, argued in his petition that "Kohinoor diamond was cultural heritage of Punjab province and its citizens owned it in fact." Jaffry moved the court after his hundreds of letters to the Queen and various Pakistani officials remained unanswered.
Do you know?
• Kohinoor's estimated price as of today is 100 million Euros
• Babar, the Mughal ruler, described the diamond’s value equal to half-day production costs of the world at that time
• Kohinoor weighed 186 carats when it was shipped to Britain
• Only women in the British Royal Family used to wear the diamond